First Nations History
We Were Not the Savages
Persecution, War, Alliance and Terrorism
I knew, when I wrote this book, that the contents would cause great pain for many Canadians of English descent. Such a prediction was a certainity because it's content brings home the discomforting fact that many of their ancestors were not always the kind, gentle folks that some historians have depicted, but were in fact barbaric in the way they treated other humans. However, the destruction of every civilization that thrived in the Americas, and the annihilation of 70-100 million indigenous souls by them and other European Nations during their invasion, speaks for itself.
Resulting from these barbaric assaults against innocent people, motivated mostly by greed, each modern nation in the Americas was founded with the spilling of much First Nations People's blood. Consequently, there can be no real peace in the Americas until each of these Nations acknowledges and assumes responsibility for the crimes committed against humanity by their ancestors, and makes atonement to their descendants for the indescribable horrors carried out.
This book recalls the trials and tribulations of one Canadian First Nation, the Mi'kmaq. However, because the histories of post Columbus First Nations are so interconnected, it contains a great deal of information that is relevant to most of the First Nations in the Americas.
In Canada's case, it has been very succesful in keeping the horrors committed against the First Nations Peoples it displaced by its creation under wraps for centuries. Even in this day and age very little of it is revealed in history books used by provinces for educational purposes.
However, in spite of its attempts to appeared to be as clean as the new driven snow, its bloody story is minutely detailed in colonial records, from which it takes its roots. These records prove beyond a doubt that the physical and psychological torment the Mi'kmaq suffered started shortly after significant European intrusions began in northeastern North America in the late 1490s. Post Confederation records are equally explicit. They prove that it has continued to some degree right up to the present time.
The First Nations People's experience with Europeans predates 1492. Before then, they had innumerable encounters with Whites, who had come mainly from what is today Scandinavia. Apparently they were well received, because early reports indicate that blue-eyed and light-skinned Native Americans were not rare.
In fact, because some Mi'kmaq were able to dress up in French or English uniforms and mingle with European soldiers while gathering information for war councils, some of the French and English wondered if they might be a white race. Therefore, the term pre-European contact will not be used in this history. In its place the term pre-Columbian will be found, because in my opinion no one can say with certainty when the first contact took place.
However, any question the Europeans may have had about Mi'kmaq ancestry were soon obscured by their drive to satisfy one of European society's worst traits: greed. The plundering of the Americas for gold and other riches became top priority. To justify the horrors that would soon commence, the invaders branded the Mi'kmaq and other First Nations Peoples "heathen savages." Which, in their warped logic, would not disturb their conscience when they began the slaughter of the People and the theft of their property.
The atrocities recounted in this book have not been placed here to engender pity. They have been retold to persuade European descended people to use whatever power they have to see that Canada makes meaningful amends for the horrifying wrongs of the past. The Mi'kmaq were, and are, a great people. To be a descendant of this noble race, who displayed an indomitable will to survive in spite of the incredible odds against them, fills me with pride. I am in awe whenever I think of their tremendous courage in overcoming the daunting obstacles placed in their path!
Quotes from two chapters:
"In a critique of the mistreatment of Amerindians by Europeans, nineteenth-century historian Francis Parkman described how it varied at their hands: "Spanish civilization crushed the Indian; English civilization scorned and neglected him; French civilization embraced and cherished him."1 Parkman's observation about the English is true, but they also, like the Spanish, crushed the Indian....
....The cause and extent of the hatred the Mi'kmaq held towards the English at the beginning of the eighteenth century because of the abuse they and their allies had suffered at British hands is well expressed in the following two quotes. The cause is described by historian John Stewart McLennan:
The punishments of the Indians for wrongdoing by the English were, as all punishments of that epoch, harsh, and in addition they were humiliating and irritated the Indians. The scalp bounties of the colonies included rewards for the killing of women and children.... [This leads to] the strange conditions, in which we find a benign and devout clergyman praying that the young men who have joined the Mohawks in a scalping expedition against the French and Indians may go in fear of the Lord, and regard the bringing in of French scalps as a good omen.
Its notable that the author did not mention that the clergyman also regarded the bringing in of Amerindian scalps, including those of women and children, as a good omen.
The extent of the hatred is described in a letter written on September 9, 1715, by Isle Royale (Cape Breton) Governor Philippe Pasteur de Costebelle to the French government: "The savages of the French mission on the shores of Acadia are such irreconcilable enemies of the English people that we cannot, with our most peaceable speeches, impress them not to trouble their trade..."
More Bounties for Human Scalps and the Treaty of 1752
...Scalping Proclamation of 1749
"After he had read the first edition of We Were Not the Savages, published in 1993, Charles Saunders, a columnist with the Halifax Daily News, sent me a congratulatory note dated February 2, 1994:
Several years ago, I watched a panel discussion that had several minority members, including a Black and a Micmac. The Micmac representative said that Blacks were slaves in the early days of European colonization, but his people were lower than slaves. At that time, I didn't understand what he meant. What, I wondered, is lower than being a piece of property to be bought and sold like a horse or cow?
Then, in the chapter of your book titled "The Edge of Extinction," I read about how your people were systematically starved to death. At least a slave gets fed, simply because the owner has a vested interest in keeping him or her alive to maintain the slave's value as property. So, thanks to you, I know what it is to be "lower than a slave" to not even have value as human chattel or property..."
FIRST NATIONS HISTORY
WE WERE NOT THE SAVAGES
A Mi'kmaq Perspective on the Collision between European and Native American Civilizations. Fernwood Publishing, Halifax, NS, 2006. ISBN 1-55266-209-8